Any strategic partnership is underpinned by a solid institutional framework. With a view to deepen and strengthen their ties, the EU and its partners have established a series of dialogues, which altogether devise a sophisticated architecture. There are different structures that reflect the level of the meeting. In this sense, there are summits, between heads of state or government; ministerial meetings; political and sectoral dialogues, between officials at various levels and from any policy area; and other platforms, which include inter-parliamentary dialogues, as well as civil society and business roundtables. There is thus a certain hierarchy within this architecture, with working groups feeding political and sectoral dialogues, which are then supervised by high-level dialogues (‘joint committees’) and/or ministerial meetings, and culminate with a summit.
Most dialogues are organised bilaterally, with very few plurilateral meetings. For practical reasons, bilateral dialogues also take place in the margins or back to back with multilateral encounters. Some of these talks are formalised by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), whereas others remain quite informal. The frequency of the meetings varies accordingly and so does the number of institutional actors involved in each dialogue.
Most of these dialogues take place behind closed doors and details are usually unknown. ESPO is the first web-platform to provide information about the institutional architecture of the EU’s strategic partnerships. Data on the structure and format of these dialogues was collected by ESPO staff, with the kind cooperation of officials from the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.